Education

Update: Brain Bags on target to launch mid-March

Baby Steps baby book cover.

The Brain Bag project is getting closer to its rollout.

The Brain Bags are early literacy kits that all three birthing hospitals in Escambia County will give to their new mothers upon discharge from the hospital. They aim to coach parents on the power that language has to build a child’s brain, especially in the critical first three years of life.

They include teaching points, developed from materials from Studer Community Institute’s partners at the University of Chicago’s Thirty Million Words Initiative, to give new parents advice about how to work more words into their interactions with their babies at home.

Building a language rich environment is so critical for young children. Research shows that 85 percent of the human brain is developed in the first three years. It is the time when the wiring of the brain is laid.

How strong that basic wiring is impacts how a child will learn as they prepare for kindergarten and, studies suggest, has effects that linger throughout a child’s school life and adulthood.

The folks at the University of Chicago preach “the power of parent talk” through their research and work, as do other efforts in communities such as Providence, R.I., and elsewhere. It is that research that inspires our work at SCI.

We are full converts to the Church of Early Learning.

As I’ve mentioned previously, the folks at Pollack Industries and ARC will assemble the bags for us, and this week they got the material to begin putting together the binder that includes community resources for parents.

The Baby Steps baby book is being printed as I type this.

Baby Steps baby book cover.

It is the last piece of our Brain Bag puzzle. It is meant as a developmental guide that parents can personalize that includes advice, tips and techniques to put parent talk into practice every day.

It also includes information to help parents follow a child’s communication skills development and encourages moms and dads to talk with their healthcare professional about any questions or concerns they have.

The Brain Bag is meant as something to help get the conversation started — between parent and child, grandparent and child, and between parent and healthcare professional.

We are lucky as a community that Baptist, Sacred Heart and West Florida hospitals all see the value in giving parents this information. And that everyone from the CEOs to the nurses in the mother-baby units are on board.

They’re converts to the congregation, you might say, in the Church of Early Learning, too.